Hunt a no show as minicamp opens

Cletidus Hunt has been walking on thin ice with the Green Bay Packers, and it is quickly cracking all around him. Like a year ago at this time, the underachieving defensive tackle did not report to the first practice of the June minicamp, raising the possibility that he might be released by the team this week.

The minicamp, which consists of three practices this week and four next week, is voluntary. Hunt's absence, however, took many players, coaches and personnel by surprise and did not sit well with Packers coach Mike Sherman.

"It is fairly discouraging," Sherman said. "You expect more out of people, so to say it's discouraging is probably an understatement."

Sherman said was never notified by Hunt that he wouldn't be at practice, and doesn't know if he will report when the team resumes practices Thursday at Ray Nitschke Field.

Sherman declined to comment on if the Packers plan to release any players today to save money under the 2005 salary cap. Hunt's absence may be an indication that he is on the way out of Green Bay.

Hunt reported to the team's mandatory post-draft minicamp practices. But he suffered a hamstring injury on the first day of practices and was forced to watch from the sideline for the remainder of the camp.

For the second straight off-season, Hunt has decided to not participate in the team's off-season workout program, or volunteer opportunity practice sessions. By not participating, he forfeited a $250,000 workout bonus as part of the six-year, $25 million contract he signed before the 2003 season.

"We just want him to be a player for us," said director of pro personnel Reggie McKenzie, who said that he was surprised not to see Hunt today.

Hunt is scheduled to count $3.2 million against the team's salary cap this season.

"I'm doing my job. I'm here trying to get better," said defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. "I would like him to be here, so we can get our chemistry going as the season (nears), but he's not here for whatever reason. I'm not Cletidus. All I can do is speak for me and why I'm here. I'm just trying to get better."

Hunt, entering his seventh season, was designated as a "transition player" by the Packers after the 2002 season when he had 5 1/2 sacks and a career-high 48 tackles. He received a $6 million signing bonus (upfront money), but his production dropped to 46 tackles and four sacks in 2003.

Last year, Hunt played in all 16 games last year and made 14 starts. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Cullen Jenkins in the regular season finale against the Chicago Bears. He finished the season with 37 tackles (21 solo), two sacks and one forced fumble.

In fairness to Hunt, he played four games at nose tackle for the injured Grady Jackson last year, but the Packers have clearly been disappointed with his production.

Jenkins won't be the only one pushing for Hunt's three-technique position this year. Second-year pro Donnell Washington, who has recovered from a foot injury that kept him out all of last season, and second-year pro Corey Williams are in position to start. Both Washington and Williams have taken part in the team's off-season workout program and opportunity session practices.

"We're going to play with the best guys," said Sherman. "We have more numbers now than we have had in the past. Certainly we aren't going to be held captive by anybody. We're going to move forward with the guys who want to play and do their job. We have quite a few guys in that group that fall into that category."


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